I may not be completely enamored with Twitter, but the more I use it, the more I like it. I find that since my students are naturally receptive to this format, my use of it enhances my ability to connect with them.
I’ve been using Twitter with my classes for six weeks now, and continue to be amazed by the versatility of the little bird. I started out by posting assignments. I asked students to use one of our current vocabulary words in a sentence in a tweet. Sounds simple enough just to start with. I thought that this would be beneficial because it would make the students think about the words enough to distill a 140 character sentence. It did. That would have been good had it ended there, but it didn’t. When students misused a word, I was able to instantly provide correction. Students’ reactions to this were very positive, and I detail this in Go Bird Go.
I moved on to literature assignments, asking them to tweet in the voice of a character from Romeo and Juliet about something in whatever Act we were testing on the next day. What I discovered there was that Twitter is also a remarkable tool for fostering creativity. Students made up fun hashtags like #pityparty, #getalife and #mynameshalldie. Then, they started having conversations with each other. Instead of giving a perfunctory thought to studying the Act, they had spent quality brain time being creative with the material and engaging with each other.
Their enthusiasm for Twitter inspired me. I began posting links for enrichment materials. I posted a link from the BBC on Shakespeare’s original pronunciation, and another with examples of Middle and Old English. I’ve always thought that some of the best learning occurs when extra-curricular materials are brought in, but my school is trying out a new schedule that has us all very pressed for time in our classes. This is a great way to still provide the extra materials! Many of my students availed themselves of these videos and commented to me about them in class.
Reach Out and Tweet Someone
Another side of Twitter that I have found to be valuable is the Direct Messaging feature. Students who never speak up in class have DMed me to ask me for help with something they didn’t understand or to see if they could try something again. (The answer is almost always yes; I’m a big believer in second chances.) And, yes, it is important for these students to learn to approach their teachers and professors in person, but this is a good place for them to start.
I’ve also made several excellent professional connections via Twitter which I’m planning to highlight in a future blog.
If you use Twitter in your classes, as either a teacher or a student, let me know how you use it.